There has been a shift in culture and expectations among young people today. “What’s in it for me?” is now the constant refrain. Children are especially susceptible to this attitude, as they absorb it everywhere. They watch television where parents are disrespected by their kids. They see manipulative advertising convincing them to expect their parents to provide the newest best thing.
These and other similar influences lead kids to have unhealthy expectations regarding the role their parents play in their lives. Parents can enable these entitled expectations. Could you be doing this? Let’s see if any of these feel familiar.
• You allow your children to always interrupt your phone conversations because you don’t want your children to feel unimportant or stifled.• You sacrifice everything to make sure your children are on the best competitive sports team.• You always defend your children when a teacher reports a problem, rather than considering the possibility that your child misbehaved or didn’t complete the assignment.• You make separate food for each child because mac & cheese or crackers is “all my kids will eat.”
It is, of course, important to allow children to feel heard, but they also need to learn respect for their parents’ space. Helping kids excel is not a bad thing, and giving them something they want isn’t either, but kids can come to expect that parents will provide funds, transportation, and other resources for anything and everything they want to do, rather than learning that sometimes they have to work for it or learn to do without.
The overall problem is that parents allow their kids to be the ones calling the shots. Parents fear that if they don’t do everything for their children, their children won’t be successful in the future. They fear that their relationship with their children will be threatened if they enforce rules or boundaries in the home.
The reality is that parents need to be the ones calling the shots in the family. Any time parents give in to excessive, inappropriate, or manipulative requests or demands, children become the ones in power, and entitlement is enabled. And rather than giving them what they need and want to be happy, as some parents think they are doing, they are actually removing the very opportunities for growth and discipline that will help their children be successful in life. Here are some suggestions that could help you avoid these pitfalls that may contribute to your child’s entitlement problems.
Expect your children to respect you, your time, and your resources. Focusing on respect is important; kids need to learn that you are their parent and not their peer, servant, or credit card.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Many parents enable entitlement because they fear they will be too harsh or stifling. Research has consistently shown that if parents have healthy emotional bonds with their children, making mistakes in parenting does not cause long-term damage. Don’t give in to demands simply because you are worried about the negative impact it will have on your child—giving in is what will cause the longer-lasting negative results.
Be selective in commitments. Research suggests when parents enroll their children in too many activities and encourage too much extra-curricular participation, kids begin to believe that their individual desires and successes are more important than their relationships with family or their work at school.
Following these suggestions can make your life at home easier and help your children find better success and happiness than if you give them everything they want.
Dr. Jonathan Swinton, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist at Swinton Counseling in Utah. He is available to give complimentary presentations on relationship issues to Relief Society and ward functions. Visit swintoncounseling.com or call 801-647-9951 to learn more.